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volunteerinng

I am out of work for sometime now, and was talking to a training institute, who have a consulting side.They have some software projects and a co-op program,where you work for 3 months in good projects, but basically for free.
I think it's a good way to keep up to date, and get a reference, while I look for employment.
What do other people think?

unemployed
Thursday, January 30, 2003

It smells like exploitation.  Some things just aren't moral. Making money off of unpaid volunteers is one of them. Be skeptical. I've never heard of anything like this in the IT field.


Find out who the end client is and what the nature of the arrangement is. If the client is paying for the work, then you should get SOMETHING, at least reduced or eliminated tuition in return for your time.  If the end client is being provided with the work essentially for free, IE, it's a non profit agency or a charity, then perhaps it's OK.


Maybe this is a real "work study" or co-op program in the same spirit as many universities offer. Or maybe it's a scam.


Try to find out more and post details.

Bored Bystander
Thursday, January 30, 2003

If you want to volunteer, why not *actually* volunteer? I.e. go to a nonprofit and offer your skills?

As the previous poster said, this smells funny, but others here has said that they like working for nonprofits a lot.

Mike Swieton
Thursday, January 30, 2003

If it's a commercial operation, and they defined projects, then they're charging for them so they should be paying the people who do the work. You should report them. Don't even think of working for such an outfit: there's no way it would benefit you.

Must be a manager
Thursday, January 30, 2003

I'd rather hang drywall than whore myself out in such a manner.

not my regular made up name
Thursday, January 30, 2003

Even nonprofits sometimes pay for consulting work.  Like the other posters here have said, if there's money involved, some of it should be going to you.  If they just broker volunteer labor, that's cool, but since you said "co-op," it sounds more like an intern position.  If you're not in college, don't intern.  Use your free time to put together that application you've always wanted to write but never had the time to do properly.

Or, find a nonprofit whose mission you like and volunteer.  Especially if it's something that'd look good on your resume.

Sam Gray
Friday, January 31, 2003

What they say is that you work with "cutting edge projects" and professionals for 3 months, plus they give you a reference.
actually the link is -

http://www.htinstitute.com/hcoop.asp

it's for new grads they say,I don't know it seem's little fishy,although the institute is well known.

unemployed
Friday, January 31, 2003

It's *really* unusual for co-ops to be farmed out w/o pay. Every co-op I've ever known has been paid *something*.


Also, commercial companies don't ever expect to get free labor, no matter how cheap they are. My guess is that this co-op program is a profit center for the school pure and simple.


Having said that, I checked the web site and it *looks* legitimate. However, it's definitely a for-profit commercial outfit, because it does not have .edu as a TLD. That clouds my impression quite a bit.

If I were you I would want to talk with alumni (they should be willing to provide you with names & numbers willingly). I would also check with some business reference services such as the Better Business Bureau, the local chamber of commerce, any local IT industry organizations, and of course the accreditation organization that gives this school their accreditation.

Bored Bystander
Friday, January 31, 2003

Commercial companies are always vary of free labour, and would never ask anyone to do cutting edge stuff for them!

surely a hoax.

Prakash S
Friday, January 31, 2003

Unpaid Internships have been around forever.  It used to be called  apprenticeship generations ago.  Yes, it is exploitation.  But it is flagrant.  You know that up front.  You aren't getting paid.  Hardly a "hoax".  You are getting experience for no pay.  Take it or leave it.  Hell, people pay $100,000 to get a college degree.  At least you aren't paying THEM to gain your experience.

Bella
Friday, January 31, 2003

"It smells like exploitation.  Some things just aren't moral. Making money off of unpaid volunteers is one of them. Be skeptical. I've never heard of anything like this in the IT field."

Talk about your sweeping moral judgements (and about something that you admit knowing nothing about <g>).  Whew!

There are three comments I can think of to address your contention that making money off unpaid volunteers is immoral.

a) Depending on how you define "making money", there are many non-profits that charge fees for their services, while relying on volunteers.  The fees tend to be lower, however, because they don't need to pay for salaries etc of the volunteers.  That doesn't mean that the cost of running the non-profit is zero - in fact, HR costs are often quite high due to the number of people involved that must be managed, and due to the fact that volunteers are notoriously unreliable (since they are not being paid).

b) Many schools (at all levels) like to provide real world experience to their students by soliciting real world projects from local businesses.  Usually the students complete the projects in groups, in exchange for a mark.  The businesses (in my experience) have to do a fair amount of work in terms of strictly defining the project, meetings with the students (and any clients, if applicable), mentoring and evaluation of the final projects.  The schools and students like this approach because they have an opportunity to work on a "real project" (instead of a mickey mouse project like they would have to do otherwise) and because they get a chance to make contacts with the businesses (prospective employers), and they get a chance to learn more about the industry in which the business operates.  The businesses like it because there is free labor provided - but the primary reason most businesses participate is a desire to give back to the community.  (The fact that the labor is free usually just about *offsets* the extra work involved in coordinating with students who don't usually have the level of technical expertise or working experience that an employee would)

c) Unpaid co-op positions are quite usual at two levels of education here in Canada: high school (both teen and adult) and ITI-type colleges.

I see unpaid co-op as a very positive thing, and about half of the co-ops we have used have come into this category.  Many of the points I made about projects in a school setting are valid here.  Unpaid co-ops (actually any co-ops) are very time-consuming to train. Because it is an unpaid position, it is easier for the schools to place students in interesting positions (and not the sorting resistors into barrels kind of positions).  The company has much less risk involved and so is more willing to take on a student and also more willing to give students chances in areas they may be utterly unqualified to be paid for.  It's all about getting real world experience, especially when you have none. It's also about learning about a particular industry and whether you are suited to a particular career (many students are "try out" different jobs).  Finally, it's about making contacts. In my experience, the best way to get a job - be it a contract with a client or an employment contract - is to "know someone". 

Many adults choosing the unpaid co-op route end up with paid employment at the end of their term.  In fact, nearly the entire staff of one of our client's started as unpaid co-ops. Another employee (who works with us closely) was on a worker's comp position where the government paid his salary, and the company just paid a fee to use him.  He actually paid half of the fee to extend his term (he enjoyed what he was doing so much and wanted more experience) - and eventually acquired enough skills to be hired as a full-time employee.

I can tell you for sure that without unpaid co-op, the company would never have considered hiring *any* of these employees - but with time and training they have all extremely competent employees.  The "free labor" offsets the training and mentoring time.  In other words, unpaid co-op lowers the "barrier to entry".

If everyone took the same moral stance as you do here, there are many people who would never get a chance to break into the kind of career they would like.

MaisOui
Friday, January 31, 2003

S ome
C ompanies
A ren't
M oral

Co-ops get paid.

My son had two co-op jobs while an undergaduate in mechanical engineering. He was paid well in both. Not as much as a BS would make but about the same as you would expect for a technical AAS degree.

I worked for G.E. for many years and we had many co-ops. Their pay was on about the same order, somewhat less than that for a BS but not too far below. If they co-oped a person in grad school, the pay level was equal to the current entry level for a BS degree.

old-timer
Friday, January 31, 2003

To MaisOui:


I've only heard of unpaid internships in conjunction with government service or with the Peace Corps - period.


I hear what you're saying about the client's need to divert significant resources to support a co-op internship program. I would respect that fact highly were it true.


But - sorry to shout but I've NEVER heard, NEVER EVER, of a commercial company doing this sort of thing.


Or maybe it's a Canadian thing. Here in the US the pattern you describe *may* have worked years ago when companies were paternal and they worked at developing human "stock" for their future needs. I could see an HP or a Bell Labs, circa 1978, doing this kind of thing. Today, everything in business revolves around getting done and showing a result in this quarter.

I still insist that the original poster needs to know with whom he's dealing and exactly how the program is administered.

The point is, the work he puts in may not even be recognized as worthwhile and marketable by a future employer, and it may only be done by all involved to get cheap labor.

Bored Bystander
Friday, January 31, 2003

Any decent tech company has the resources to pay a stipend to a co-op employee. I have never heard of an unpaid tech co-op (until now). I did a number of co-ops in college and they all paid between $15-$20/hr, which was pretty good for a kid in the midwest.

choppy
Friday, January 31, 2003

Just because both cats and dogs are mammals doesn't make a cat a dog.

In other words, just because paid co-op positions exist (and I never said they didn't), doesn't make unpaid co-op positions "wrong".

I should point out that paid co-op positions are more difficult to place, and sometimes the co-op (who does actually have a choice!) would rather get the experience and contacts than have the money.  As I said before: unpaid co-ops are more likely to get a job for which they have no experience and are not qualified for, than they would if they tried to find a job on their own and / or expected to be paid. 

As I also said before (but maybe not explicitly enough), unpaid co-op positions are usually attached to education programs where the person is either "trying out a job" (ie may be completely unsuited to that career) or is switching careers.  Often the person's background in computers is not very extensive - and incidentally, a partial degree in engineering is a *much* better background than is obtained by many of the people who come out of the programs that offer unpaid co-op positions.

Those who do unpaid co-op tend to
a) be having a very hard time finding a job (perhaps extremely poor interview skills that would be unimportant in the day-to-day job, maybe lack of contacts, background or experience)
b) want to learn more about career options in a particular industry/sector/company without committing to an employment contract or
c) have little to no real world experience in their new field

Also, I would point out that GE is a giant company that can afford to hire a complete waste of time, unlike the vast majority of companies in this country, and furthermore, paid co-ops tend to be the best of the candidates available (most co-op programs require a minimum average etc). Finally, no one can afford to hire someone that they are sure lacks the background and skills - even at "co-op" rates.

Apparently, your moral code says that if companies like mine want to give less experienced/skilled people a chance to excel in their chosen industry but can't afford to unless it is an unpaid position - we should either only let the person work on internal / unpaid work or not hire them at all.

Hmmm.

MaisOui
Friday, January 31, 2003

Mais Oui:

Here is the bottom line:

There may or may not be contacts.

The work may not be very good. It may not lead to anything in the future.

The arrangement may or may not be misrepresented.

You keep coming back to "moral code." I'm sorry I said that, it's apparently clouded the major point here. Screw that, OK? I am saying: the person looking at this deal needs to protect themself by knowing exactly what they may get out of the arrangement.

Bored Bystander
Friday, January 31, 2003

"As I also said before (but maybe not explicitly enough), unpaid co-op positions are usually attached to education programs where the person is either "trying out a job" (ie may be completely unsuited to that career) or is switching careers.  Often the person's background in computers is not very extensive - and incidentally, a partial degree in engineering is a *much* better background than is obtained by many of the people who come out of the programs that offer unpaid co-op positions."

I can almost see working an unpaid position if you were directly receiving college credit for it.  Yet even then...I recall that my high school offered practicum in various trades, and while it may have been minimum wage, it did pay.  Heck, even work-study college kids doing crap jobs like running the check-out desk in the library (ideal homework-doing time) get paid.

A friend of mine worked as an intern at a software company in Arkansas while he was in college.  He made around $10 an hour, I think.  Obviously not programming wages, but definitely not zero either.  The company he worked for obviously hadn't mastered the art of exploiting the young and naive yet.

"Those who do unpaid co-op tend to..."

...be suckers.  It's that simple.

Unlike some others here, I have seen job offerings of this type; no pay, but a supposed chance to get your foot in the door.  All I wondered is what kind of fool would take such a job, and what kind of company supposes that people don't have to eat.

"Also, I would point out that GE is a giant company that can afford to hire a complete waste of time, unlike the vast majority of companies in this country, and furthermore, paid co-ops tend to be the best of the candidates available (most co-op programs require a minimum average etc). Finally, no one can afford to hire someone that they are sure lacks the background and skills - even at "co-op" rates."

I, on the other hand, would point out that first of all, it's always been the case that a company doesn't know exactly what it's getting when it hires someone.  That's called LIFE.  Secondly, I would point out, MaisOui, that if your company and other companies actually paid their current employees what they're worth instead of making heroic efforts to lowball them at every turn, then (1) such companies would have less need to hire because they'd have less turnover, and (2) such companies could more easily afford to hire unproven talent because they'd have proven talent who'd been around longer and could show the newcomers the ropes.

"Apparently, your moral code says that if companies like mine want to give less experienced/skilled people a chance to excel in their chosen industry but can't afford to unless it is an unpaid position - we should either only let the person work on internal / unpaid work or not hire them at all."

My own old-fashioned moral code says that you shouldn't hire someone to do a job if you can't pay him.  A fairly simple, common-sensical approach, if you think about it.  But obviously a company's stock will be worth more if it can con naive people into working for free.

Kyralessa
Friday, January 31, 2003

Bored: "The point is, the work he puts in may not even be recognized as worthwhile and marketable by a future employer, and it may only be done by all involved to get cheap labor."

This is true and I completely agree.  But (and the reason I put in my 0.02 here) - not all companies are the worthless scum the people in this thread appear to work for :)  And, in my experience, the companies that are just looking for cheap labor don't tend to get a second placement (after all, the student usually evaluates the employer, as does the coordinator).  The big point I wanted to get across to the original poster was that unpaid coop work is usually not "a scam" or "immoral" or worse than hanging drywall (no offense to people who like hanging drywall intended) etc, but can have many benefits if you get a good placement.  Sure, nothing in life is guaranteed - but you should be able to get a sense of what the motivations of the company are during your interview - after all, the student is interviewing the company just as much as the company is interviewing the student.  And futhermore, getting out of the placement is usually not difficult (the original poster should *not* get involved in unpaid co-op if they cannot switch placements easily!)  Finally, the original poster should check if the manager and company they will be placed with has had previous placements - a "rookie" tends to be a bigger risk.

Really, the only reason I'm commenting is because all the other comments were extremely negative (excessively negative even) - yet none of the posters have any experience with unpaid coop (most had never even heard of it!).

I've been on both sides (as a coop, and as a recruiter - both paid and unpaid...) - and it's been win-win *almost every* time I've seen it done.  The only times where the placement wasn't entirely successful it was a huge drain of resources for us as an employer - so not exactly "cheap labor" (probably the most expensive hire I've *ever* done in terms of time and emotional energy). 

Choppy:  Don't you think it's a bit presumptous to say that "any tech company" can "afford" to pay $15-20/hour for "any coop"?  We certainly can't.  Make whatever judgements you want - but I'm not going to pay someone hard earned cash while they are a net drain on resources.  I simply am not in a position to do that. (And actually $15-20 /hour, esp if you are talking $US, is pretty good money around here - where many people are just happy to work for someone who is not laying off employees...)

While I can't afford to pay an employee who cannot contribute immediately, I *am* in a position to provide training and mentoring free of charge to students who are happy to contribute to the best of their ability.  If said students take advantage of said training and become fabulous employees - they'll end up getting hired...

I find it very surprising/disturbing that so many of you find this to be such a terrible thing.

MaisOui
Friday, January 31, 2003

The OP said he was out of work for some time now, implying that he has some experience already. 

He's not a student that needs mentoring.

 
Friday, January 31, 2003

Kyralessa, high schools here in Ontario, Canada do not have paid co-op positions.  And as far as I know, all unpaid co-ops have college credits associated around here.

I could afford to hire anyone at minimum wage to run the check-out desk.  There's not exactly a lot of training or skills required for that job.  I can't afford to hire just anyone to do our core work, especially the interesting stuff (that yes, we usually are paid for by our clients - that's called business...). 

As someone else pointed out, many people spend tens of thousands of dollars to be educated or to get training through educational institutes.  Why are you so against people just not getting paid to be educated and get training? Students have to eat too.  Why should I as an employer assume all of the costs and risks of hiring an employee that I *know* is not qualified for the job?

"(1) such companies would have less need to hire because they'd have less turnover, and (2) such companies could more easily afford to hire unproven talent because they'd have proven talent who'd been around longer and could show the newcomers the ropes."

Companies hire unproven talent, yes.  But they don't usually hire people who mostly lack the skills/background/experience, especially in this market where there is lots of competition from very talented and experienced developers.  (And I'd say that's especially true if said companies only cared about their bottom line...)  There's showing the ropes, and then there is a four month intensive training requirement (before which the person usually is a *net drain* on resources).

"My own old-fashioned moral code says that you shouldn't hire someone to do a job if you can't pay him."
Maybe I'm talking into a brick wall here -  maybe you are too scarred by your apparently terrible luck with employers.  (I'd note that we're not a publically traded company and never will be and I don't exactly subscribe to the theory that successful companies are those that increase their profit margin every year). 

I'll try one last time:  I can't afford to hire someone to do a job that I could do myself in a fraction of the time, at a fraction of the cost.  In fact, 9 times out of 10, I spend more time training and helping the person than I would have spent actually doing the project.  So, no, I can't afford to pay the person on top of all the time and resources we spend.  You want to think that that is exploitation of "naive people" - go ahead.  Personally, I consider it valuable community service.  Perhaps it would be more valuable service if I could give the person a free ride and pay them while training.  And some day, it would be great if I could do that.  But I have to eat too, you know, and in the meantime I think it's better to offer what I can, than nothing at all - and just as importantly - so do the co-op students.

MaisOui
Friday, January 31, 2003

"Choppy:  Don't you think it's a bit presumptous to say that "any tech company" can "afford" to pay $15-20/hour for "any coop"?  We certainly can't."

I said any "decent" tech company can afford to pay a co-op employee something. $15-20/hour is what I personally made as a coop employee, when I was in college.  Any decent tech company should be able to pay a co-op employee whatever the minimum wage is.


At this point, i'm not sure what MaisOui is even talking about. You say that you can afford to hire anyone at minimum wage to staff the check out desk. But you can't afford to hire just anyone to do the core work. So, you can afford to pay your clerk a minimum wage, but your co-op programmers you can't afford to pay at all? I don't understand.

Also, I'm not sure I understand the situation you describe. I'm talking about people, presumably computer science students, or similar, trying to get a programming job through a co-op. And my position is that they should be paid a minimum wage. I mean, even the army pays 80 bucks a month, or whatever.

The way I read your posts , it seems you are talking about taking random people with no skills whatsoever, then giving them a chance to learn computer programming, for free, at your company? I don't really have an opinion on that situation, it seems very atypical and strange.

choppy
Friday, January 31, 2003

"So, you can afford to pay your clerk a minimum wage, but your co-op programmers you can't afford to pay at all? I don't understand."

I guess the point I was trying to make is that there are other costs to hiring a co-op than salary.  If we are going to get someone to work on a project that requires a level of knowledge/skills above that of your basic cashier - ie where training requirements are well above a day - then we personally cannot afford to pay someone to do that job *unless* they are able to contribute to the project nearly right away.  In our field, that eliminates nearly all high school students, ~10/40,000 university students and even fewer college students.  It also eliminates anyone who doesn't have at least five years of real experience programming - and probably anyone who didn't grow up using a computer or wasn't involved with computers as soon as practical.  If we don't pay the person during the portion of training time, we'll be able to give them a chance.  If we had to pay them - we'd hire someone who we were sure were able to do the job and do a good job.  And we would not expect to spend time mentoring them and explaining how to complete the task etc. Good business practice, perhaps, but if you are the person looking to get a break in a tough economy - I suspect you'd prefer to have an unpaid introduction than your resume trashed as a matter of course.

"I mean, even the army pays 80 bucks a month, or whatever."  The army is publically funded (albeit badly) here in Canada.  What's your point?  I had a friend who was paid $15/hour to sort resistors.  It was a boring and unfulfilling job.  There are millions of terrible and paid jobs that people can do if they want.  However, if you want a job that you don't have the qualifications or experience to do, either you get lucky - or someone has to give you a chance. Someone else pointed out that the OP implied they had previous work experience.  I would just add they also implied they'd been out of work for a while - which would indicate to me that perhaps their combination of skills/experience aren't in the right areas for the kind of job they are seeking - or maybe there is something about their interview skills that is problematic - or maybe there is simply too much competition for the kind of jobs they are looking for.  There are many ways of addressing this problem - and an unpaid co-op position is one option.

"It seems you are talking about taking random people with no skills whatsoever, then giving them a chance to learn computer programming, for free, at your company?"

Usually they have *some* skills (although we did have one person who was unsure which way of the keyboard was up) - but they are missing many of the skills we would normally require of an employee.

For instance, the person we have starting on Monday (amusingly enough in the context of this conversation) (who I should add has a much better background on paper than is usual - she likes unpaid coop positions because she received her last four jobs that way) has a Masters of Business Information and started her career as a C programmer in the Ukraine.  However, she has not kept her programming up to date (a required skill) and has no experience writing cgi's in C++ (a required skill).  She does seem to have a good understanding of HTML, including form creation (required skill) - but she has very basic to non-existent SQL skills (another required skill).  Her communications skills are also lacking a bit, partly because her English is not great (another required skill), and I have no idea if she has any systems analysis and design skills (would be very useful).

Her biggest problem as a potential employee is probably the lack of SQL skills - we'd probably read her resume under ordinary circumstances, but she wouldn't have gotten as far as an interview.

Now, however, we'll do everything in our power to not only give her relevant work experience, good contacts and maybe a job at the end - but we'll also make sure she has every opportunity to get up to speed in the areas where she has less experience.

Unusual - maybe.  Specific to this city - maybe.  But I utterly reject the assertion that it is immoral.

MaisOui
Friday, January 31, 2003

There is actually a position at RIM (Research in Motion), a well known Canadian company, asking for a volunteer in one of their development depts . tO do Java,XML work.

The catch is they need smebody with WSIB coverage(Workers Safety Inspection Board), which is normally got by coming in through a adult co-op program.
Any ideas how I can get WSIB coverage?

concerned
Friday, January 31, 2003

Check with your local adult high schools to find out if you can get into their co-op program (or contact RIM directly).

MaisOui
Friday, January 31, 2003

"And futhermore, getting out of the placement is usually not difficult (the original poster should *not* get involved in unpaid co-op if they cannot switch placements easily!)"

OK, so Mais Oui knows of some of these 'placements' where not only do you not get paid but you are not free to leave. We have Constititional Amendments (13 & 14) against these practices in the US. Maybe there in Canada stuff is different. I know it is different in Saipan, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia where slavery drives the economy.

In any case, MaisOui is either trolling, full of it, or a dangerous madman.

If you meet a MaisOui in real life, run don't walk away from this raving psychopoth. These people are out there so you have to watch out. Don't lets these fruitballs take advantage of you. And NEVER accept their offers to move overseas. You will never see your family again.

Ed the Millwright
Friday, January 31, 2003

I still don't know if I understand this situation. If the people you pick out really don't have any experience relevant to producing value for the company, why bother?  Why not just HIRE one of the thousands of out of work people with the skillset you described? 

choppy
Friday, January 31, 2003

"Why not just HIRE one of the thousands of out of work people with the skillset you described?"

To your question they'll respond, "why pay somebody to do the work when you can find desperate suckers to do it for free?"

T. Norman
Friday, January 31, 2003

"OK, so Mais Oui knows of some of these 'placements' where not only do you not get paid but you are not free to leave"

My goodness, you are paranoid Ed.  This is probably how urban legends start. 

Not free to leave as in you will fail the credit if you do.  Not as in the evil company ties you to the bed a la Law and Order underground sweat shop.  And unpaid co-op is always local as far as I know, so relocation would not even be discussed.  Talk about trolling.  Sheesh.

In terms of "why don't I just hire some one qualified" - well - a) it's not super easy to find some one qualified (most qualified people currently have jobs, the current glut is in people with a little experience or in all the wrong places.) When I come across someone qualified - I will indeed hire them, but it doesn't occur as often as the people who are not qualified. b) people who are qualified don't tend to have trouble finding jobs.  It doesn't make sense to me that companies should all compete for the very few top people, when there is a mechanism (unpaid coop) designed to train some of the "others" into top people with less risk and expense to them? 

And Fundamently, I believe in giving those without enough experience and background a chance.

MaisOui
Friday, January 31, 2003

It's simple supply and demand.  If circumstances dictate that someone will work for free, whether for his own personal reasons and gain or not, then they will.  No one has a gun to their head.  It's simple supply and demand. 

Bella
Saturday, February 01, 2003

Incidentally, I should add that unpaid co-ops (working here anyway) don't "replace" a paid employee on a project.  It's not a case of "hmm, should I try to hire someone good, or shall I try an unpaid co-op?" 

Co-op is designed to be a learning experience, which means that the project is designed to meet the co-op's personal growth and educational goals.  It also must have definable milestones that fit into the co-op term, not be too intimidating, and be flexible in case the co-op has difficulties or switches placements midway through the project. In other words, the experience of the co-op student is more important than the actual completion of the project.

Usually, this means that co-op students either work with another employee on the project (and that the project is acheivable if necessary internally), or they work on their own on a smaller project with a relaxed timeframe (ie the kind of project where it would be nice if it got done at some point, but if the co-op ends up doing nothing on the project, the world won't end).  It also means that if we really *need* another employee (ie "someone good"), filling the gap with an unpaid co-op is not going to work.

Right now, we don't really need extra people - but should this unpaid co-op turn out to be a diamond in the rough (which is often the case) we will likely hire her because (as I said before) it's not easy to find good people, and by the time you really really *need* another employee, it's a bit late to be hiring (in my opinion).

This is also how it works at the client's I mentioned (where half their staff started as unpaid co-ops).  When they get a new co-op, it's not that they are short-staffed (when you are short staffed - you don't expend extra energy training people up to speed, "free" or not; that's how you get your other employees to quit!) - it's usually that there is a co-op available that is interested in the kind of work that the company does.  Sure, many times they end up hiring the co-op at the end, but that's usually more a case of work expanding to use available people and a case of soliciting more business once they decide to hire (and thus can handle more business).

Personally, I think unpaid coop is much better than the training programs offered by various help desk companies (where would-be employees pay for training, and then are guaranteed a job) or by various colleges (where would-be employees just pay), because it involves on the job training with real experience (as opposed to random made-up projects) and it is all completely free to the student.

MaisOui
Saturday, February 01, 2003

MaisOui:

I admire your prolific defense of the practice of unpaid co-op. It's a lot of material, even for a programmer's BBS. I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are the resident expert in this thread on this sort of arrangement.


But - we *still* need to get down to the bottom line for the original poster. He needs to know what's in it for him. He needs to know what the experience of others who have participated in this school's work study is. That is *ALL* that counts as far as the candidate's POV. You make it sound as though the company's needs are fulfilled, that alone guarantees a good experience for the candidate.


Who *cares* what valid business reasons exist to do this on the company's side. I find the reasons quesntionable, you view the reasons as a sort of manifest destiny for commercial entities, that they deserve to get free labor from time to time. Whatever. It's still the candidate who will take the fall on a bad  or go nowhere assignment.

Lastly - just a reality check - programmers have always appeared to me to be a bunch of libertarians who worship at the alter of caveat emptor. Fine, it's a free country and candidate can make his own mind up.  But - if volunteering to build someone else's business up so they can make a profit is seen as a reasonable thing, then what the hell is the point of staying in this industry if you're giving away work? It doesn't make any sense at all.

Bored Bystander
Saturday, February 01, 2003

MaisOui is no expert at all. He doesn't even understand what's being discussed. This is not coop type work.

There are some training companies - often with connections to Indian entrepreneurs - that very deliberately set out to exploit the schmucks they push through their often expensive, often poor training programs, often for high end products. The reasoning goes that these schmucks are prepared to pay for a course; probably we can get them to do work for free too.

Wake up
Saturday, February 01, 2003

"Who *cares* what valid business reasons exist to do this on the company's side. I find the reasons quesntionable, you view the reasons as a sort of manifest destiny for commercial entities, that they deserve to get free labor from time to time. Whatever. It's still the candidate who will take the fall on a bad  or go nowhere assignment."

Well-spoken, sir!

It may indeed be true that there are companies out there with hearts of gold but limited means which will hire people for no pay, train them extensively for three or four months, and then hire them at a good salary once they're productive employees.  It may also be true that there really is a fellow in South Africa (from whom I received an e-mail today) who found an untapped account in the bank and generously wants to share it with me if I help him move the money.

Nonetheless, notwithstanding the existence of one good-hearted scalawag from South Africa, the fact remains that on balance most offers from overseas of great riches for zero effort are hoaxes and scams.  And notwithstanding the existence of one noble company like MaisOui's that wants to train people for free and then pay them well, the fact remains that I'd view most offers like that with a great deal of suspicion.

The only way someone ought to even consider such a bizarre situation is with strict terms:  e.g. the company in question writes out a contract pledging to hire the person after x months of study, if appropriate progress has been made, with a neutral third party to judge the progress, which could be passing certain certification exams or something.

But even then one would still have to ask why it wouldn't be better to work at a crap job, program on one's own time, pass the exams by oneself, and _then_ go looking for a job with a real salary.

Kyralessa
Saturday, February 01, 2003

Bored:

"He needs to know what the experience of others who have participated in this school's work study is."
Sure, I agree with that.  However, it's pretty unlikely that anyone in this forum has gone to that particular school (especially since I am apparently the *only* person responding to this thread who has apparently ever been employed as an unpaid coop). I'd recommend that he ask to speak to students that have gone through the program and find out what they thought of it.

"You make it sound as though the company's needs are fulfilled, that alone guarantees a good experience for the candidate."
Baloney.  I do think that if the candidate and company are well-matched, the candidate is likely to have a good experience - but how likely it is that they are well-matched depends on the company's motivations AND the candidate's ability to size up the company during the interview.

"I find the reasons quesntionable, you view the reasons as a sort of manifest destiny for commercial entities, that they deserve to get free labor from time to time."
Manifest destiny?  Come on... Where did I even come close to implying that I "deserve" free labor?  My point is that some companies can only justify hiring a student that will require more training than the normal candidates that they hire, if the student does not also want payment.  In fact, the concept getting free training is hundreds of years old (apprenticeships!), and in many cases (eg universities) people are willing to pay for training.  I find it strange that people responding to this thread think that a similar institution is morally corrupt just because the place of training is a for-profit institute. I'd take a long hard look at universities, if I were you.

"It's still the candidate who will take the fall on a bad  or go nowhere assignment."
The candidate is usually looking to find
a) what it's like working in x industry
b) would they like to work at x company (ie job opportunity)
c) a reference / contacts
d) credits for their course at school
e) real world experience
f) extra skills

Even in a bad assignment (*should the candidate choose to stick it out!*) most of these goals can be met without any cooperation from the company, because looking from the inside is different from researching from the outside.  And honestly, if the candidate cannot tell it's a bad assignment from the interview (or first day even!) - then they lack interviewing skills, and the learning experience will help them out long term anyway.

Having been on both sides of the fence (and drawing from my experience at multiple levels of education, with multiple schools), I can tell you that without a shadow of a doubt - it's the employee assigned to work with the student who takes the fall for a bad work placement, not the student.
Ever taken a bad class at school? A bad work placement is like that.  If it's required, or if you decide you really want the credit - you finish it and move on.  That's what it is like for the student.  Ever had an employee who can't do their job, hates their job, is not shy about telling you they hate their job, sucks the job out of your life and makes it really hard to  complete your own work because they have zero capability to work alone?  That's what it's like for the employer.  It's not a zero sum game - a bad placement affects everyone.

"But - if volunteering to build someone else's business up so they can make a profit is seen as a reasonable thing"
Unpaid coop *rarely* "build up" the business, nor do we "make a profit" off unpaid coop.  Yes, I allow unpaid coop to work on projects that we get paid for as a company - but my profit margin would be much higher if we just completed the work internally instead of coaching the coop through the tasks and explaining the reasoning etc as we go along.  Having an unpaid coop work on paid projects simply makes it more likely that the cost to me will be lower (and thus affordable). 

Wake up:
I'm a "she" and not a "he"...


Kyralessa:

"The only way someone ought to even consider such a bizarre situation is with strict terms"
If you'd been reading - it would have been clear to you that unpaid coop (in my experience) is only common through schools (usually for credit).  There are strict terms and conditions (as someone else mentioned, the schools take care of things like workers comp insurance etc etc).  Usually there are also evaluations and papers to do for both parties.

"But even then one would still have to ask why it wouldn't be better to work at a crap job, program on one's own time, pass the exams by oneself, and _then_ go looking for a job with a real salary."

The OP's possible motivations were "to keep up to date" and get references.  In other words, keep an edge in the tough employment market today by being able to put something other than a gap on his or her resume.

When I did co-op, it was because I preferred doing something real over doing more schoolwork (had to get the credits to graduate from high school...) and because I wanted to learn if I was suited to a career in microbiology research which I couldn't do "by myself" due to the lack of equipment and also would've had no idea where to start (answer: no).  I incidentally also had said "crap job" in the evenings and weekends.

When my husband did co-op (at Cognos), he did it for credits, to get his foot in the door and to add real world experience to his resume. 

MaisOui
Sunday, February 02, 2003

I promised myself to cut back, but....

>> "He needs to know what the experience of others who have participated in this school's work study is."
>> Sure, I agree with that.  However, it's pretty unlikely that anyone in this forum has gone to that particular school (especially since I am apparently the *only* person responding to this thread who has apparently ever been employed as an unpaid coop). I'd recommend that he ask to speak to students that have gone through the program and find out what they thought of it.

You're writing so vehemently on this subject (which with the above pararagraph I now realize that unpaid co-op represents your own experience) that you completely missed my advice, stated at least two times, to do just what you say: GET REFERENCES FROM PAST STUDENTS WHO PARTICIPATED IN THE PROGRAM.

In fact, the OP should probably also speak with a faculty advisor, get from them names of companies using this service, and then inquire of the HR departments of these companies how they view the work study program being administered by this schoold.

Also, it's very interesting to me that you are the only person in this thread who has experienced unpaid co-op.


I would therefore posit that unless the co-op work results in a  good job offer with the same company, that this kind of arrangement is so unusual or atypical that it  will be rather hard to defend in the marketplace, when applying to most commercial companies.... which, unless the work is a "certain" fast  track to a particular job, could make the co-op work a strategically poor choice for future employment. 

Personally - I'd rather propose a volunteer project with a non profit. It would be a HECK of a lot easier to explain and defend later.

Bored Bystander
Sunday, February 02, 2003

i have visa and passport but no money 4 airbus

gbolahanm fowobi
Monday, August 02, 2004

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